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Global Piracy and Armed Robbery Situation in 2021

  • General

Piracy and armed robbery at sea continue to be headline concerns in 2021. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre received 132 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2021. Incidents include 115 vessels boarded, 11 attempted attacks, 5 vessels fired upon and 1 vessel hijacked.Every incident reported is a blow to the confidence of seafarers serving on board ships around the world.

Types of vessels attacked among the 132 incidents were:

  • 47 Bulk carriers
  • 31Tankers
  • 30 Container ships
  • 24 Others

It is essential that suspicious activities and incidents are notified to regional reporting centres. This not only enables the navy to effectively deploy their assets and assist ships in an emergency, but also helps the centres to send out alerts to other ships to raise their awareness of the security situation of the region. The Admiralty Maritime Security Charts show the format, contacts and other detailed information for routine reporting.

Thanks to IMB, ReCAAP, Singapore IFC, EU NAVFOR including UKMTO, MDAT-GoG for their frequent updates on piracy and security situations in various regions.

  • Gulf of Guinea

The increased presence of international naval vessels and cooperation with regional authorities has had a positive impact. There were 34 reported incidents within the Gulf of Guinea region in 2021, a decrease from 81 reported incidents in 2020. The spike in 2021 has been broken but the threat remains, but the causes for this are not fully understood and a resurgence is possible.

While kidnappings at sea dropped 55% in 2021, the Gulf of Guinea continues to account for all kidnapping incidents globally, with 57 crew taken in seven separate incidents.

Advice to members:

  1. Report to MADT-GoG (link, Email:; Emergency Tel: +33(0) 298 22 88 88) when some of your ships sail in the Gulf of Guinea region;
  2. BMP WA (link) compliance is essential. The “MSC Lucia” and the “Tonsberg” cases both demonstrated this in different ways. Having effective protective measures protects the crew and buys responders time. All ships must apply protective measures to give responders precious time.

The shipping industry associations including INTERCARGO welcomed the launch of an important initiative – the Deep Blue Project – by the Nigerian authorities in June 2021. Managed by the Nigerian Maritime Safety Agency (NIMASA), the multi-agency project will significantly increase maritime security in the region, an area blighted by piracy, armed robbery, and other maritime crimes. It is the hope of the shipping industry that the Deep Blue Project, coordinated with other navies and programmes through the mechanism of the GOG – Maritime Collaboration Forum/SHADE, will seriously impact on the ability of pirate groups to prey on merchant shipping. It is anticipated that it will make a significant impact in reducing piracy and armed robbery, protecting seafarers, ships, and the essential trade that serves the peoples of countries in the region.

  • Asia

There was a total of 82 incidents of armed robbery against ships reported in Asia in 2021, comprising 77 actual incidents and 5 attempted incidents. This represents a decrease of 15% compared to 2020.

1. Singapore Strait

There was an increase of 15 incidents in the Singapore Strait (49 incidents in 2021 compared to 34 incidents in 2020), although the level of severity was not high. As the perpetrators have not been arrested, there is a possibility that such incidents continue to occur.


Members are encouraged to refer to the Singapore Navy’s “Guidelines for Shipping Companies on Voluntary Community Reporting (VCR)”, as attached.

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2. Manila Anchorages

An increase of violence level towards crew at the Manila Anchorages. Out of 9 incidents, 4 incidents involved perpetrators armed with gun/knife and threatened the crew and tied them up. The Philippine authorities arrested the leader and members of a criminal group in September and November. No incident has been reported since September 2021.

3. Sulu-Celebes Seas and Eastern Sabah

For the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah, there is no abduction of crew incident reported since January 2020. However, as the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group are still at large, the threat of the abduction of crew incidents remains high.

  • Gulf of Aden

The EU navy (EU NAVFOR) advised in Dec 2021 that:

The threat to merchant and large fishing vessels transiting the Red Sea, BAM, GOA and the Western Indian Ocean is classified as follows:

  1. Piracy is LOW (an attack is UNLIKELY).
  2. Conflict-related activity
  3. MODERATE for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Saudi-led Coalition (SLC)-flagged vessels, an attack is POSSIBLE but UNLIKELY.
  4. LOW for other countries, an attack is UNLIKELY.
  5. Terrorism is LOW (an attack is UNLIKELY).
  6. No Maritime Security Events to report during the period.

Advice from IMB says that “while the direct threat of attacks from Somali based pirates appears to have decreased, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre continues to encourage vigilance among shipmasters, particularly when transiting close to the Somali coast”.

A continued downward trend in Somali piracy has prompted leading shipping organisations including INTERCARGO to reduce the geographic boundaries of the ‘High Risk Area’ (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean, which will apply from 1 September 2021. An on-going comprehensive new approach to assessing international maritime security threats is in progress and expected to be completed early 2022 to allow shipowners and operators to fully gauge the risk of voyages worldwide.

  • The Caribbean

Thirty-six incidents were reported in 2021 compared to 30 in 2020, with six crew threatened, four taken hostage and two assaulted. Thirty-one vessels were boarded in total, the majority at anchor, while figures for the region include three reported attempted boardings and two vessels being fired upon.

In Dec 2021, at Port au Prince, Haiti, four robbers disguised as fishermen and armed with guns and knives boarded a bulk carrier and threatened the duty crew. The locally appointed armed guards exchanged fire resulting in two perpetrators being killed.

South American ports in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and ports in Mexico and Haiti continue to be affected by incidents of armed robbery at sea.

Incidents in the Peruvian anchorage of Callao have more than doubled from 8 in 2020 to 18 in 2021.